Off to Guangzhou

Disembarking the plane at Guangzhou

What are the odds of meeting a fellow BU alum at JFK airport who happens to be on the exact flight to Guangzhou as you?

Whatever the odds, I’m still amazed. And mostly grateful.

My mom and I had just returned from a brief trip to the nearby casino, where her friend had said to go for a Chinese dinner (whereas I just craved a burger, because America). As luck would have it, the restaurant had closed down. Forever. So while my mom got a bowl of MSG-laden beef noodle soup at the food court full of hungry old gamblers, I sat and waited until I could return to the airport for a juicy Shake Shack burger. (Even though there was a burger shop at this food court, I was NOT about to pay $10 for a burger here). As for gambling, we passed, and I’m glad because the super friendly Lyft driver who drove us back told us he rarely hears people winning there. Instead, he’s heard people lose $10,000 in two days.

Despite it still being early for a 1 a.m. departure, we figured we could check in at 9 p.m. and browse the shops we had passed by earlier—after my burger, of course.

But as I wandered confused looking for the China Southern check-in desk that apparently didn’t exist yet, someone called out.

“Sonia!”

I turned to see a familiar, smiling face. She was the type of acquaintance whom you saw all the time on campus but never really hung out as friends. And here we met again! Shocked as I was to see her, I kept thinking how grateful I was to bump into her and her friend while we caught up and joked around with not one, but several surprisingly fun airport employees throughout the long night. It sounds weird, but it just felt nice to chat, laugh, and truly enjoy my time with different people when I’ve spent almost all of my time since graduation with my mom. A college graduate can only handle so much family time.

In addition to human interaction, we felt grateful because they just happened to be first in a long line (or what Chinese passengers consider a line) for the check-in desk to even exist and open. No China Southern signs or employees even showed up until about 10, when we finally got to check in and check out the shops. Here’s the one reason why I said MOSTLY grateful: Because of their delays from getting snacks at the shops, we JUST missed the chance to get burgers. By 11, both Shake Shack locations at the B terminal had closed. Instead, we got $12 cold sandwiches next door. Utterly depressing as a last American meal. But in the end, I was still happy about the chance encounter.

China Southern Boeing 777 plane at JFK
China Southern Boeing 777 plane at JFK.

Fast forward about 16 rough hours, and we were on the first shuttle bus taking us from the Boeing 777 through the marshy lands under the overcast skies to the airport building. As hopeful as I was about the FREE-AIRPORT-WiFi, no matter how many times I entered my phone number to get the password while waiting for our baggage, I had to give up. This would be only the first of many WiFi struggles to come.

Our relatives came in two cars, one for luggage and the other (a Cadillac, nonetheless) for us.

Nice.

We arrived to my aunt and uncle’s former, now unused three-bedroom apartment in Guangzhou, briefly freshening up before going back out for dim sum. At 9 a.m. After 20+ hours of travel. As tired as we should have been, we weren’t. I think part of it was due to pure excitement at finally seeing what will be my apartment for at least the next few weeks and already imagining comfortably living here on my own.

The restaurant itself was set right along a beautiful lake and park, with gorgeous views. How could I not have high expectations? Unfortunately, despite the amazing first impressions, the meal was strange, to say the least. We sat in a windowless room and had to walk outside to literally pick up our dim sum to bring back to our table inside. Since this was technically breakfast and I didn’t want to pick foods that would make me seem even more white-washed American than I already came off as (buns, tarts, fried shit), I settled with options that didn’t completely satisfy me, but I just told myself to indulge later. I mean, can you imagine not eating any buns during dim sum? Ugh.

Anyway, we spent the rest of the afternoon visiting friends and relatives, and driving through the streets and especially seeing FamilyMart made me nostalgic with Shanghai memories.

Ah, but you can probably guess the one thing I definitely do NOT miss about China: WiFi problems. I was so happy to have strong WiFi in our apartment when we arrived but when we returned later in the afternoon, expecting to spend the rest of the day resting and catching up with life, we couldn’t connect at all.

Thanks to wonderful relatives, they came to help my mom with all the problems she has, whether it’s her phlegmy cough, red eye that had something stuck in it, or her clogging the toilet. Seriously, her problems give me so much unnecessary stress that I find myself holing myself in my room to get some peace and quiet, while blasting the small offline music selection from my phone.

Anyway, I guess all this makes me only more excited to be on my own after this week. Independence is so close I can taste it.